Since being criminally indicted in Manhattan on Thursday, Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the prosecutor. Now that a judge has been assigned to the case, Trump has begun attacking the judge, by name, in viciously personal fashion on social media.
The thing is, criminal defendants don’t get to do that – and the judge can (and often will) crack down on defendants immediately for such behavior. Judges have full discretion over what privileges criminal defendants do or don’t have while they’re awaiting trial.
That includes whether or not the defendant is allowed to travel, has to routinely check in with a court officer, is allowed to use social media, and even whether the defendant is allowed to remain free while awaiting trial.
Legal expert Charles Coleman appeared on MSNBC on Saturday morning and spelled out that Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks on this judge are “opening the door” for the judge to hit him with a gag order. Such a gag order could disallow Trump from mentioning the case, or even from using social media at all. We’ve seen judges hit plenty of other defendants with such restrictions after misbehaving. And if Trump then violated the gag order, the judge could hit Trump with something like house arrest.
Judges generally try to place as few pretrial restrictions on defendants as are considered necessary. But when defendants insist on violating whatever rules are initially put in place, we’ve seen time and again that judges don’t hesitate to crack down.
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